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Manchester Charrette: setting the scene with masterplanners 5 Plus

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The design teams went for a tour of the site to be talked through 5lplus Architect’s masterplan, make their own observations and get a feel for the area

5plus has worked for the best part of seven years on the evolving masterplan at Airport City, starting with capacity studies that informed the site purchase and the early major infrastructure moves. We then moved through a wider strategic South Manchester regeneration context into the development framework and now some detailed area studies.

We have had to address issues around affordability, phasing and technical delivery. We have also gone through boom, then recession and now possibly back to boom. A masterplan needs to have that capacity to respond to internal and outside forces and remain intact. We have held on to the notion of how you create a unique place – or even a place of many places (a city). We are creating a new city next to an airport rather than an airport city. There is very little in terms of site features to hold on to, but the opportunity of re-visioning the tangle of road, rail and air links and then harnessing those fantastic connections remains obvious. 

5plus Architects

Source: David Butler

The charrette site is an important first phase, landlocked but with one of the few key existing site features in terms of the brook – a watercourse which could be transformed but at present is an overgrown ditch rather than a babbling brook.

Our vision is that this could be more random than other parts of the masterplan: a place where people could meander through or linger and certainly not a typical business park; a place carved out of existing features rather than something manicured and started from scratch – something of a rough diamond. 

You can get bogged down in the daily grind of technical detail and the constraints of knowing too much, so the charrette has offered an opportunity to re-vision the place without those burdens. Each of the six architects has developed some unique thoughts … a hill, a park, a place to get lost, a cluster of buildings, one epic building, a populated bridge. All are valid.

The question still remains as to how that leap across the motorway spur can be achieved without a physical bridge, but now we have some great new ideas as to what might be possible on the other side if we can get there.

Phil Doyle, director, 5plus Architects   

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